Hello and welcome to Part 1 of a blog series about Citrix Cloud and the many features and benefits of utilising Citrix Cloud to design, implement, support and maintain your XenApp/XenDesktop environment.
To give you a bit of background, since joining Citrix as a Senior Systems Engineer for UK Enterprise customers, I decided to put a few articles together to help show the real power and use cases for Citrix Cloud (formally Citrix Workspace Cloud).
These articles are meant as an introduction to Citrix Cloud and a bit of a “How To” in deploying the basic functionally. These articles are by no means the “be all and end all” of Citrix Cloud nor do they represent any official training or documentation from Citrix.
In the series I hope to demonstrate some common use cases and how under the single solution of Citrix Cloud, these use cases can be met. It will go something like this:
Part 1 – using Blueprints to deploy a new Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x Site into Azure
Part 2 – using Citrix Lifecycle Management to automatically migrate your XenApp 6.5 Farm to your newly deployed XenApp 7.x Site.
Part 3 – using Citrix Lifecycle Management Smart Scale to intelligently control your cloud-hosted workloads so that you only have the amount of resources up and running in the cloud that you are using.
Part 4 – using Citrix Lifecycle Management to Upgrade your XenApp 7.x Site to the latest version.
Part 5 – Using the Citrix Cloud Apps & Desktop service to manage your VDA workloads, wherever they are; be it on-premises, cloud-hosted or a hybrid for a fully cloud-managed solution. This solution removes the requirement to deploy the Control Layer, which Citrix will maintain for you. You access an HTML5 version of Studio for management. The only “deployable” components are the VDAs.
In Part 1, we will look at using Citrix Cloud Blueprints to deploy a small scale (POC) XenApp environment into Microsoft Azure. I am using Microsoft Azure as this is my lab environment but it could be AWS or another public cloud or any on-premises, co-hosted or any datacentre that is running Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESXi. It really doesn’t matter. At Citrix we believe in giving you as much choice as possible and allowing you to work with what you have.
Blueprints allow you to deploy a best practice XenApp/XenDesktop environment onto your chosen platform with the minimum of setup. Using scripts and workflows, the relevent servers and services are deployed automatically. Citrix have published a few best practice and small-scale deployments along with some community and partner blueprints. Blueprints are found in the Blueprint Catalog.
The blueprint we are using in this example is the Simple XenApp and XenDesktop Proof of Concept blueprint that will deploy a standalone Domain Controller, XenApp Controller, VDA and NetScaler VPX. All Windows Servers are based on Windows Server 2012 R2. Let’s see how we do it!
- Log into your Citrix Cloud account at citrix.cloud.com. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up for a free trial and request Lifecycle Management. If you do need to sign up for a free trial, it shouldn’t take too long to provision for the Lifecycle Management side. However, I understand that for other sections, trials are very sort after and space is limited so trials for the XenApp & XenDesktop Service may take a long time to come through. For this and the next few “exercises”, you will only need Citrix Lifecycle Management.
- Navigate to Lifecycle Management and click Manage.
- Select Blueprint Catalog.
- In this example, I selected “Simple XenApp and XenDesktop Proof of Concept”. Feel free to look at the other available blueprints, such as the production ready “XenApp and XenDesktop with SQL” blueprint.
- Click Add to Library.
- Now you will need to add a Resource, which is essentially your datacentre where you’ll be deploying stuff. Click on Resources and Settings.
- Click Add Resource Location. Select the appropriate location type. In my example, I selected Microsoft Azure.
- You will now need to provide your Azure details to finalise the connection. Once connected, you will see your location listed.
- Now that you have a Resource Location, click on Design and Deploy. From the drop down menu on the blueprint, select Deploy. This will start the deployment wizard.
- Select the name of your deployment. I have gone with the default. Click Next.
- Select your Resource Location, in this instance my Azure Subscription I added in a previous step. Click Next.
- You’ll now get the pre-reqs list which you should read through. There’s also the option of exporting a parameter list csv file that you can amend and upload later but for the sake of this example, I am carrying out the steps manually. Click Continue once ready.
- You’ll now see the list of components that will be deployed as part of this blueprint. There are; Domain Controller, XenDesktop Delivery Controller, Server VDA and NetScaler VPX. Click Next.
- You now create the virtual machines configuration. Select Create new VMs and for the Domain Controller, from the dropdown menu, select your Resource Location.
- For the Azure deployment, you now select which OS you want to use, in my case Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and which variant of this. I choose the most recent build of August 2016. Click Select on your image.
- Also, I had previously configured some of the backend Azure requirements such as the Virtual Network, Subnet, Cloud Service and Storage Account.
As of time of writing, only the Azure Classic infrastructure is supported so make sure you bear this in mind and provision accordingly. I have decided that the provisioning of these is outside of the scope of this article. Also, it may be that Azure isn’t relevant to you. I will try to cover an on-premises deployment via Citrix XenServer at a later data.As I only had a single Classic VNET, a single Subnet, a single Cloud Service and Storage Account, they were automatically selected. If you don’t already have any of the Classic Azure components, you can create them through the wizard though. I found it to be simple and self explanatory (providing you are familiar with these Azure concepts). Once done, click Next.
- You now need to create an account and password. I’m not sure if this is a pure Azure only option due to the way machines are configured, so mileage may vary! Enter in the required details and click Next.
- You are now on the Summary page. This also gives you the awesome option to configure your other virtual machines with the same configuration which is a great time saver. If you wish to do this, make sure “Copy this configuration to other VM tiers”, “XenDesktop Delivery Controller” and “Server VDA” options are ticked. Click Finish.
- Review that all the information is correct and click Next.
- You now have to enter the name for your domain and the SafeMode Password, XenDesktop Site Name as well as some other information. All passwords are encrypted. Something else which is a bit of a PITA for a demo/trial is the NetScaler license. Since a recent change, you can no longer move on without it so you will need to get hold a NetScaler license.However, I was confused on this as getting a NetScaler trial license is easy, however it is tied to the MAC address of the appliance, which you don’t know as you haven’t deployed it so it’s a bit chicken and egg. I managed to get hold of a platform license and hope that this is enough. I will update once I have more information.Once you are happy, click Deploy.
- You will now see the Deploying “wheel of destiny!” In all likelihood, this will take a few hours to run through.
- You’ll be taken to the progress page which shows all the steps.
- Now, my deployment didn’t quite complete, and I’m currently investigating this as it failed at the NetScaler configuration but all components were created including the VPX and configured without issue. Here’s a view from within Azure.
- We can now log into the Delivery Controller and see what’s what within Citrix Studio. I did this by connecting to xd-poc-xdc. As we have installed a POC and the Controller and StoreFront roles are together, you can see the StoreFront management nodes at the bottom.
- As you can see, a machine catalog has been created and the VM “VDA” added.
- Also a Delivery Group was created and published desktop. As part of the POC blueprint, a published desktop is automatically created.
- To spice it up, I’ve published some critical LOB applications 🙂 These were added in exactly the same way you would do in any other deployment of XenApp with Studio.
- Going down to the StoreFront node, you can see that the Store and StoreWeb sites have been created.
- Now, from the Domain Controller that was created, I opened IE and navigated to http://xdc.cloud.lab and low and behold I was presented with StoreFront and it asking me to install Citrix Receiver!
- Once I installed Receiver, I was able to continue and log in. By default, the Domain Users group of the domain created as part of the blueprint has access to the pre-created Delivery Group so nothing more than your original administrator or a test user in Active Directory would be required.
- Navigating to the Apps tab shows all of the applications that I published!
- Moving to the Desktops tab shows the “Sample Desktop” published as part of the POC blueprint.
- To prove it works, I launched NotePad successfully! A throwback from my consulting days. If I can launch NotePad, I can launch anything :-p Project completed!!!
- Curiosity got the better of me so I launched the published desktop as well!
So, there you have it. Using Citrix Lifecycle Management and the built-in blueprints, we’ve been able to deploy a XenApp 7.9 POC environment in Azure. Please bear in mind that there should also be a NetScaler Gateway in the mix here and I will report back and update the blog once I have this fixed so you would also have external access.
It is also worth noting that this deployment could have been on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESX. We could have also deployed a full scale production-ready XenApp environment consisting of 2x Delivery Controllers, 2x StoreFront servers, 2x Provisioning Servers, 1x License Server and a mirrored SQL environment (3x VMs) to house the databases. There are also blueprints to deploy NetScaler VPXs in their own right so you have the possibility to use CLM to deploy an end-to-end XenApp environment.
I’ll wrap up this article here but please stay tuned for further articles on Citrix Cloud and Lifecycle Management. In Part 2 I hope to show how to automate the migration from a legacy XenApp 6.5 Farm to this newly deployed XenApp 7.9 Site.
Thanks for reading!